Here's another batch of ideas for developing a calendar. While I'm on the subject, I'd like to take a moment to observe the seventh anniversary of this blog.
In addition to laying out the basic days, weeks and months of the year, it's important—and it adds depth in the background of a campaign—to determine holidays for the setting. As mentioned above, these can provide plot hooks for the PCs, individualized for clerics and others based on the cultures from which those characters come. Suggested below are a few of the possibilities based on previous material that describes the different religions and societies of the setting.
Winter and Summer Solstices
It should come as no surprise that these days are sacred to priests and followers of the Sun God, since they represent the sun at its strongest (summer solstice) and weakest (winter). Practitioners observe them in two different ways. Just prior to the winter solstice, they fast for the day and spend their time in quiet meditation, considering all the ways in which they still have darkness in their lives. The next day—New Year Day—is a time for feasting and giving gifts: ones that have religious value, among those who lead comfortable lives, or alms for those who do not. The summer solstice, on the 14th of Cancer, is celebrated with major festivals that involve religious rituals and various entertainments such as processions, public dramatic performance and the like.
Phases of the Moon (Dates Vary)
In a similar way, the elves make their religious observances during full and new moons. Due to the roughly twenty-nine-day cycle of the moon's phases, this means that these tend to shift by a day or so every month. This fact has led some to believe the elves are haughty in their disregard for a regular calendar, but the elves see their own symmetry in the process. They observe the new moon with fasting and meditation, much like worshipers of the Sun God practice on the winter solstice, and celebrate the full moon with feasting in an outdoor or similar natural setting.
Eclipses (Dates Vary)
These events are considered important by the curious group known as the Navigators. They view them as a celestial conjunction between the male and female powers of the sun and moon, respectively. While they are widely known to celebrate with feasting and revelry, accompanied by lengthy discussions of matters important to their organization, some also believe that they engage in other, more hedonistic and possibly even orgiastic, entertainments.
Another religiously-related event that can happen at any time throughout the year is the pilgrimage. Depending on the person undertaking the journey, it can be directed toward any number of destinations. For example, elves from Homeworld feel the longing occasionally to visit the great forests of that planet (although this happens less now that they've cultivated pristine forestland on the planet Sylvanus); the dwarves feel a similar yearning to return to the mountain fortresses from which they or their ancestors hailed. This urge occasionally arises among gnomes, halflings and humans, but less often. It is almost unknown among half-orcs and other humanoids.
Curiously, those who adhere to the Cult of the Void view the Asteroid Belt as a destination for pilgrimages, since the apparent destruction of that world embodies the entropic force of their deity. A small subset of their number even believe that the asteroids, which occasionally drift away into a planet's atmosphere and thus burn up as meteorites, provide some kind of mystic hint regarding what might transpire in the near future.
Birthdays of Important People
Throughout the known planets, the birthdays of political leaders and other influential individuals provide another reason for celebration; just a few examples are provided here.
- The birthday of Imhotep, high priest of the Universal Architect, occurs on the 21st of Sagittarius. This is a day when the faithful of that god show their gratitude by performing some kind of service for the church, although some of the wealthy just send a monetary donation.
- Qasim al-Saqr Ra'is, leader of the corsairs who first claimed the Holy City, has his birthday on the 17th of Aquarius. This affair is a chance for members of the Captains' Council to celebrate their successes and show off their wealth, in the form of public feasting, processions and other public entertainments.
- King Edmund III, titular head of the Royal Interplanetary Company, was born on the 23rd of Virgo. His day is a break from normal work, celebrated with food and drink, song and dance—ranging from the common fare of the working classes to the sumptuous entertainments enjoyed by the nobles.
- Finally, it should be noted that the elves and dwarves generally don't celebrate birthdays, seeing the course of a year as being but a small part of their long lives.
Anniversaries of Important Events
In the same way as birthdays, the anniversaries of events such as battles, treaties and similarly important occurrences provide another excuse for celebration.
- Among the dwarves occupied in mining the Asteroid Belt, First Delve is a holiday that marks the beginning of those efforts. Taking place on the 13th of Capricorn, it provides a break from their normal work, a time for singing songs of old and future glories, before returning to work the next day.
- The elves observe anniversaries of departure dates for their arkships, which set out on long journeys between the planets. These consist of short, somber prayer services, calling on the Moon Goddess to continue her blessings for those travelers.
- In the Crossroads asteroid colony, the annual return of a familiar comet brings three days of festivities that include various competitions at archery, fencing, footraces and the like, culminating in an aethership regatta inside the asteroid belt itself.
Adding to the Calendar
Another benefit of using a calendar in one's campaign setting is that the deeds of the PCs can eventually be added to it. For example, a hero who hails from the Holy City on Homeworld and who ends up defeating a powerful and dangerous foe could eventually have her birthday observed as a local holiday there. Such would likely also be the case for the other PCs in their hometowns. Similarly, the anniversary of the great victory itself could become its own day for celebration, with tales of the great deed being told forever thereafter.